The core issues of governance, risk and compliance are becoming increasingly complex in today’s society, meaning boards of local government organizations must approach these matters appropriately in order to serve their communities effectively. Laws and compliance for local governments include the various regulations and requirements that dictate how council members must conduct meetings, carry out voting, handle records and data, and approach security measures. Local government workers and officials are under a large amount of pressure to successfully protect the public’s data and to allow citizens proper transparency at the same time, all while complying with open meetings requirements.
Laws and compliance impact municipalities differently across regions. Local governments in the U.S., for example, must comply with certain regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and be diligent about eliminating any technology barriers for people with disabilities. In another instance, municipalities in Canada must ensure citizens follow a specific nomination process for local government elections and monitor eligibility requirements to run for office. Staying on top of laws and compliance is critical to the overall success of any local government organization, and also shows citizens a commitment to due diligence and lawful operations.
Although advancements in technology have brought efficiency, workload improvements and cost-effectiveness to the space, they have also made local governments more vulnerable to cybercriminals. As serious cyberattacks like the ransomware incident in the City of Atlanta crop up more and more, it is crucial for local governments to understand how to secure data storage and ensure meeting documents are always accessible at the same time. Compliance and security are both components of good governance. Therefore, implementing sound cybersecurity practices helps to ensure that all relevant laws are being followed and that compliance is regarded as a priority within local government organizations.
Many modern hackers are looking at smaller, local governments as low-hanging fruit, taking advantage of the fact that most local governments barely have any budget to allot to cybersecurity efforts. As local government board members are entrusted to protect their citizens’ sensitive data and serve the community effectively, dedicating enough time to cybersecurity planning is vital to the ongoing success of the municipality and the well-being of the public. Best practices for laws and compliance indicate the need for the right digital tools that work to safeguard sensitive information while still providing needed transparency and access to citizens.
Boardroom technologies such as board portals completely automate laws and compliance processes for local governments. At face value, board portals are extremely helpful tools for managing meetings and document storage, but they can do so much more than that. When approaching the often daunting tasks involved in auditing, policy management, compliance management and risk management, local government professionals can tap into the power of a board portal to streamline each process and save valuable time and resources.
As the umbrella of laws and compliance includes all federal, state and local laws and regulations, municipalities should look for a board portal provider that can guarantee the portal system meets the government’s legal compliance requirements. With automated compliance management functions like workflow, controls and reporting, the right board portal can bring efficiency and ease to regulatory reporting and compliance so that local government professionals can focus more on serving their citizens effectively.
Open meeting laws are a critical component of laws and compliance for local government boards. Under the laws, also referred to as Sunshine Laws, meetings must be held “out in the sunshine”, or in a publicly accessible time and place so that citizens may attend. Incidences such as rolling quorums violate open meeting laws and can put an entire board’s credibility in jeopardy, threatening public trust and thus civic engagement. Rolling quorums are when meetings occur without a full quorum present and board business is discussed. This, as well as anything that could constitute a secret meeting – including personal email chains, conversations over a meal, or even a social outing – is something local government council members must be painstakingly careful about.
As the minutes of a meeting serve as a legal and public record, local governments must be sure they are recording complete and accurate meeting minutes that are readily accessible to the public. Additionally, councils should fully understand elections processes and procedures for their jurisdiction to maintain compliance with local requirements. As municipalities continue to adopt certain technologies and improve the ways in which they serve citizens, maintaining a strong understanding of meetings and procedures is a vital best practice for local government laws and compliance.